Good Friday Never Wins…Prayers for Joanne and Christie

I remember church members, who in my less than accepted opinion, found nothing wrong with jumping from Palm Sunday to Easter. One said, “Hey, the crown is worn by Easter…that’s all that matters.”

And then, after moving to Leander, Texas, which is not exactly, theologically speaking, progressive, I shuddered. A very large church, certainly not one of the United Church of Christ or Disciples of Christ, had in neon lights: EASTER SERVICE GOOD FRIDAY NIGHT. It was on my grocery store route, so I changed routes. Figured to “visit” with their pastoral staff on “What happened to Good Friday?” was hopeless.

Point here is we may want to miss Good Friday, but in the pulse walking of each single one of us, Good Friday doesn’t miss us. That doesn’t mean we are masochistic. That doesn’t mean we are evil, although I am becoming persuaded that evil is too much in charge these days. In our personal world, I would wager, you could, right now, name a personal Good Friday moment. But, that’s not the point of this blog.

The point of this blog, even though it may be loosening its grip: GOOD FRIDAY DOESN’T WIN. I believe, and have lived most of my days [exceptions do happen] that GOD WINS.

Although in certain times, that may be challenged. To that end, and it was the launch moment for this blog, I read Joanne Carlson Brown’s Caring Bridge note from last night. I have shared how important Joanne is to me in our spiritual journey. She’s a Methodist Minister and Professor in West Seattle. She and her spouse, Christie, were married by their District Superintendent [yeah!] a few years ago. Christie struggles with a horrific brain tumor. Then this morning.

Here’s Joanne’s comment…and my heart cries for them:

Monday night 9/18 late

Journal entry by Joanne Brown — 7 hours ago
“Been a hell of a day. First, my right knee has been bothering me off and on for a few years but the last 2 months it has been excruciating. So finally went to oath surgeon. She said: Do you know how bad your knee is. I said I know it hurts. Then she showed me the x ray and it is bone on bone and she says I need a knee replacement. I explained why this wasn’t going to happen as I am sole caregiver for Christie so she gave me a cortisone injection and said it would take a few days to work. I am waiting. Then this afternoon, Christie fell getting out of bed – she has been sleeping most of the day yesterday and today and is nauseous from chemo – and hit her head on the bedside table and got a good gash on her arm. Naturally I was scared and concerned so I called 911 and they took her to hospital. 7 1/2 hours, one CT scan, one MRI and they told us we could go home. I have put her to bed and am lying on heating pad as my back is also killing me. Waiting for insurance to authorize the bone scan my dr wants me to have. I am bushed. Could this day get worse? Except that we are in our new home, albeit surrounded by boxes but it is very good, so there is that. Now to bed finally.”

What can be done? For sure. I have worshipped with the members of Tibbett’s UMC in West Seattle. They are better than ever, in helping Christine and Joanne. Their Bishop has provided “family leave” for Joanne. Yet, knowing the bone-on-bone knee situation, not time to look away.

What about us? Most of you know me…sorta at least. What I ask is for you to join me today and as often as you can, to name Joanne and Christie in your prayers…that they know they are not alone, that they know God will never abandon them and that Good Friday will NOT win. Please do that…please.

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Brian’s Adventure: Fishing Is More Than Filling The Nets

Good Saturday morning, to each of us—

Am sharing two links this morning to which I’ve referred in previous blogs. When Bill Monroe, Outdoor Editor of Oregon Live/Oregonian, asked for a shared detail of the salmon fishing adventure that Brian Duty [our nephew] and I took with Zorba [Chris Vertopoulos] on the Columba River, I was honored. Bill has taken the initial narrative and crafted it so well. It is published today in Oregon Live and will also be published tomorrow in the Sunday Oregonian. In addition, Bill put the story on his Facebook…and on a Northwest Fishing and hunting link,

Below are the Oregon Live article and the IFISH.NET links. Already over 200 have read from IFISH.NET. This is such wonderful news…sharing it is a joy. No less than my appreciation you take the time to read and care.

Blessings, Peace and Healing,


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Postscript To Wedding Comments

Marilyn Gregory is a special friend. I first met her when Interim Pastor at the First Christian Church in San Marcos. Her father attended worship every Sunday—such a gracious man—and most Sundays Marilyn drove from North Austin to be with her father. I learned Marilyn was a teacher. I so valued teachers—any level, it doesn’t matter. In my new supply preaching parish [who will never spell perish!] many of the members are retired teachers. That is why my second sermon focused upon Miss Carter, my 8th grade teacher—but more importantly, my best teacher ever.

Marilyn gave me permission, in a world of stress and political fracturing, to share her response to the “wedding” blog. Wanted to share, because others have commented verbally. And, one responded, “That’s interesting,” which when said after a sermon, leaves ambiguity on the table—interesting good or interesting unhelpful?

Thank you, Marilyn, for your comments,

“Good blog today! I wanted to read more…

Spark and I have been married for 44 years and still going strong. He has been so supportive of my adventures in Delta Kappa Gamma and my love of working with students & first year teachers for certification… and I have been there for him through all his illnesses (heart attack, lung cancer, diabetes, etc….) We raised 2 wonderful sons and now enjoying the 6 grandchildren, yet let them have their own lives.

With our hurried life style, it is difficult to find “our time” but we need to for our own growth and sustainability.

Thanks for showing what is most important, love with others not money or keeping up with the Jones’. “


And with that, a gasp…a friend shared she and her husband have shared their wedding vows EVERY day…oh, my…and that’s their case for years. She even said when “we have a particularly difficult project to fix something in the house—a two-person project—we share our vows. Keeps us with the right focus and priority.”

So, to 10-4 on this, Happy Vowing Everybody!

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Thoughts On Weddings

I was touched by this link below. I found it heart-felt, even though no formality was ingredient.

But, first, the link put me in touch that not everyone should get married. I could quickly focus upon the nervous young man who counseled in my office with his fiancé. I asked him, “You look troubled; might you share if something’s bothering you?” He did. Explained he is a truck driver, saved as much money as he could, bought his fiancé a ring. Her mother didn’t think it was worthy enough, took it back and bought her daughter a glitzier ring. End of conversation and engagement.

Or, Earl. Such a gracious man, kind and honest and ethical. He was 80-something, a widower. All he wanted was someone to live with him…his ethic would not permit that unless the lady and he were married. He declared, ‘Pastor, I found someone!” They visited in my office, pre-wedding conference. Something wasn’t right. The fiancé said practically nothing and kept turning her very large engagement ring. Yep, I thought I saw dollar signs in her eyes. Came up with this, since I was aware Earl was very wealthy and had two sons and their families, “Earl, I assume you and XXXX have signed a pre- nuptial agreement.” Her eyes turned to daggers. Earl inquired, “No, what is that?” I explained. She walked out of my office. Earl was ruffled, but then understood what was going on. Don’t know if she returned the ring.

Two months later Earl was in my office. His new fiancé could not have been more supportive of caring for Earl…but, even more, she DEMANDED a pre-nuptial agreement, “Pastor? I want to care for Earl and am supportive of him and his family.” It was a lovely wedding. Earl died a few months later.

Enough of that for now. But not without a truth…as you can appreciate, a minister officiates at lots of weddings. The one I refused was when a fiancé called me—had never met them—and asked if I would officiate? She explained her husband owned a small airplane and they wanted to be married while flying. I asked if there was a co-pilot or anybody else with us? She replied, “No, just the three of us.” Nope, sorry. The truth is these are extreme…but honestly, most weddings, no matter what I do, and often it’s ineffective, are far more for social amenities than spiritual necessities.

Reminds me [and then I’ll get to the point of this with the link in a paragraph] of a wedding I did when at Broadmoor Church in Colorado Springs. At the wedding reception someone tapped my shoulder. I turned. “Pastor, I’ve been to many weddings. You did a great job…said some important things.” I gulped. It was Bart Starr, former Quarterback for the Green Bay Packers and Hall of Fame member. I thanked him, but obviously the wedding content didn’t sustain the marriage. It ended in less than a year.

Okay. The link below is certainly off the charts. The couple eschewed a church or social wedding place. It was on a football field. The groom was still in his practice pads. The officiant was one of the football coaches who is also an ordained minister. In reading about it I thought, “This is really a good thing. Because I ‘sense” in their heart, they are so very committed and they believe.”

Of course I could be wrong. But, maybe not. Mostly, though, think, please. Each of you…as I do for me…the marital relationship…do the vows still work? Have you shared them lately? Does the willingness to understand still overpower the need to judge? More you could offer to the marriage?

What’s the main point of all this: does your most primary relationship remain covenantal? A covenant is an agreement between two people “they will each give their fullest for the good of the relationship, in sickness and in health, in plenty and in want, in joy and in sorrow, as long as we both shall live. So help me, God.”

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A Blog For Another September 11

She grasped my hand in gratitude. The other hand held firmly to her walker. Her husband, gently by her side, smiled, too. In that moment, my right hand with her and my left hand with him, I thought, how important, whether we are strong or weak, whether we are bold or timid, whether we are quiet or brash, we need each other. It was a circle of affirmation. Not only the three of us…but the entire faith community. So genuine. And, my goodness, even the “sleepy guy,” who is both known and famous for sleeping [I maintain he closes his eyes to focus—has become a trusted and valued buddy] kept his eyes open during worship yesterday.

The sharing of concerns mentioned folk whose pace is almost stopped. Yet, in the Invocation such a key word, “guide.” Asking God to guide us. In the memory of my heart, the most profound Invocation I’ve had bless me.

I then came home and it came together…the storms rage…the path of Irma doesn’t bring solace…yet I was reminded by my beautiful colleague Joanne, about Maya…and what life is REALLY all about…whether two or three holding on together…or our family…or any group you are part of…so, this morning, Monday, September 11, painfully a day that will never delete the impact of 9/11, I share and ask you to do the same…

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A Colleague Shares Words Vital and Vitalizing

Kaye Hult is a pastor in our Pacific Northwest Conference. Each Monday she writes a letter to all the PNC clergy and churches, offering a caring thought and petition for comfort and peace. She has given permission to share her thought from this past Monday, a greeting I found vital and vitalizing. Thanks, Kaye, for your nurturing pen.

Greetings, my friends and colleagues within the Pacific Northwest Conference of the UCC!

Grace and peace to you!

Grace and peace! How much we need these, but also how much they are needed all over these days!

My prayers all week have covered the gamut of natural disasters — Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, the fires over so much of the Northwest, the major earthquake in Mexico, the flooding in Bangladesh, as well as the seemingly-escalating tensions between us and North Korea, the unpredictability of the current administration in the White House, the cruelties in Myanmar …. and the list seems endless.

One of my prayers has been to remember that the light still shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. I have also prayed for victims, and for first responders stretched to the max, and those working for climate change, and those working to bring about a more just world, and for all of you, continuing to bring the Good News to those around you — news of light and hope in the midst of work for justice and peace and mercy.

Thanks be to God that we can turn to one another for support in our ministry as we seek to live and work faithfully throughout all that is going on! Thank you, one and all, first for what you do, and second for the ways you find to work together. And thank you to all involved in our conference and national endeavors that widen our ability to minister.

In the (adapted) words of J. Philip Newell in Celtic Benediction, ,,,,
The vitality of God be (yours) this day — the vitality of the God of life.
The passion of Christ be (yours) this day — the passion of the Christ of love.
The wakefulness of the Spirit be (yours) this day — the wakefulness of the Spirit of justice.
The vitality and passion and wakefulness of God be (yours)
that (you) may be fully alive this day —
the vitality and passion and wakefulness of God
that (you) may be fully alive.
God’s blessing and shalom be with you all!

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When The Storms Don’t Win

I can only walk through my blogs with description. It’s not my style…more than that I eschew…to be prescriptive. This is the pulse of my soul and the voice of my heart. It may help. It may not. That’s not my call.

I can identify when my heart is alive and my eyes tear up. [Well, after eye surgery yesterday they tear up a tad from that…but the tearing of my eyes comes from emotions and spiritual impact primarily.]

In this manner:

When I read of parents who lost their son, Caleb, at 7 months. This month he would have begun kindergarten. His parents, to honor Caleb walked the walk he would have to school, carrying supplies for all the class. A way to honor Caleb. That’s beautiful, to not be contained by a worst tragedy. No. To find ways to honor their son.

When I see a police officer carrying his service dog to his grave…along with officers escorting. When my beloved Mercy died of jaw cancer. He was the best English Cocker Spaniel in the world. A great teammate. When he started to convulse Diane and I took him to a Vet Hospital. When Mercy was sent on his way, I didn’t know what to do. My emotions were beyond anything I had experienced before. So, as Mercy was sent on his way, I put my hand on his brow and offered a benediction. Animals have become so very important to Diane and me. As you know, we have three, Faith our English Cocker, Caleb our Cavalier and Copper our Yellow Lab. It’s not a day started well without the 3 of them taking me for a walk.

When I read of a couple changed their wedding day so they could devote themselves to helping at a flood shelter feeding the victims of Harvey…and I’m sure others who helped…and now, Irma. This is being written Saturday morning…so friends in West Palm Beach are my focus…but, even more all of us, that we may not see floods as God’s judgment; rather we see the floods and raging waves and winds as the reality we need—and in some cases have no choice—to grapple with.

I think of this small rural church…and all the churches during my ministry—as their pastor—and as their Conference Minister, who do their best to not amputate the Gospel. To make sure their resources and personal contributions of time and energy and love are not going in circled cul-de-sac called self-indulgence.

Tomorrow I will share with the wonderful faith community in Lexington, Texas, “When the Storms Don’t Win,” and I will offer up words of gratitude for Margaret Trost, who didn’t let the sudden death of her husband, Rich, when their son, Luke, was an infant, take over her life and demolish her future. She had a vision and a need…to DO SOMETHING FOR OTHERS. [That’s the Trost DNA] and founded the What If? Foundation in Haiti.]

I hope each of you can take a few moments now and focus upon those moments in your life when you were “taken in” to the deeper verity that caring for others is the best DNA. And. Those who looked at you and knew when you NEEDED SOME CARING AND HELP.

May we never know God as stranger and those around us as without value.

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